Cambridge academics have been in Belfast guiding some of the city’s brightest sixth-formers towards places at the UK’s top universities.
Led by Methodist College, yesterday a group of grammar schools brought together 80 pupils for an afternoon of masterclasses on a range of subjects from quantum theory to biotechnology.
The masterclasses are on part of a new HE+ initiative for state schools developed by the University of Cambridge.
The Belfast Consortium – which is the first to be established in Northern Ireland – also includes Wellington College, St Dominic’s, St Malachy’s and St Mary’s CBGS.
One of the Cambridge team at Methodist College yesterday was Corpus Christi admissions tutor Michael Sutherland.
Ahead of delivering a physics masterclass, he said: “Corpus Christi College has been working with state schools in Northern Ireland for many years under the University’s Area Links scheme.
“The HE+ scheme is showing great promise in encouraging bright students to challenge themselves and each other, and we are delighted to be part of the new Belfast Consortium.
“We hope this scheme will encourage and prepare more of Belfast’s top students to apply to top universities, including Cambridge.” As part of the project, students are “encouraged and challenged to think beyond their A-level curriculum,” as well as being introduced to new ways of approaching familiar subjects.
The pupils involved also benefit from support in filling out their university application forms, have the chance to visit Cambridge, and receive additional study material from Cambridge for extension classes.
Stewart Roulston of Methodist College is the Belfast HE+ Consortium coordinator.
He said the college has a history of forging links with other local schools, and added: “Our students benefit enormously from these partnerships, especially through sharing knowledge and skills with their peers.
“This is a brilliant experience for the students. For our pupils it really works well and we have had two sessions so far where they were working with students from the other schools – and they are raising the bar for our students as well.”
Last year 1,600 Year 12 students in over 50 schools and colleges across the UK took part in the initiative.
Cambridge University said HE+ helps pupils who have “the potential to make competitive applications to top universities”, and added: “Taking part in the project gives students many opportunities to develop their academic skills, understanding and confidence, and also receive advice and guidance about applying to higher education.”